TEFL Should Students Be Allowed to Use Their Native Language in the Classroom?

When I first began teaching lessons during the TEFL Course I found myself almost automatically saying to the students, ?English please,? after all it is an English class. However, I began to question myself about whether or not this was ?correct? practice or if the students should in fact use their native language to assist them in the learning process. After doing some research I found the TEFL Law Code of Ethics. The Law of Ethics provided many vague and open-ended ideas. It suggested things along the lines of, ?The foreign language teacher shall direct her whole professional effort to assist the students to develop his/her second language speaking ability.? It also mentions that TEFL teachers are to act with justice and fairness, to act with evolving concepts of the students needs, and to develop their talent suitably and to the fullest extent. These ideas all suggest that as a teacher one must decide based on their students what is best for them and their language learning experience. I have found that different schools and teachers hold different methodologies specifically concerning whether or not students should be allowed to use their native languages in their second language classroom. Many language and international schools located around the world have chosen the methodology of not allowing students to speak their native language inside the English classroom. Some of these schools have gone to the extent of not allowing the native language to be spoken inside of the school building. The theory often behind this is that if a student is put in this position they will be forced to use their second language therefore perhaps doubling the exercising and usage of it, which are two important components when learning a new language. It is also speculated that in a classroom with extensive ?peer tutoring? an unequal relationship is formed between the teacher and the higher-level students opposed to the less proficient students who spend more communicative time with their higher-level peers. Some articles referred to what is known is caretaker language or foreigner talk to refer to being in the constant presence of someone who only speaks the second language. This replicates how children learn to speak by simplifying, repeating, and expanding. This is what some schools are attempting to replicate by not allowing the native language to be spoken. One article, Peer Tutoring an Second Language Acquisition in the Elementary School, reminds us that students learn in a variety of ways and suggested that pupil to pupil interaction leads to more language comprehension. To quote Confucius, ?I hear and I forget, I see and I see and I remember, I do and I understand.? The research that was conducted concluded that the pupils are able to use less sentence simplification and therefore their peers learn a more extensive use of the second language. Another study done had a different take on their students and their native language. The Nestor School Bilingual-Bicultural Education Model, suggests dividing the native language and the second language into two separate curriculums. It was found that it was important to first study the native language to ensure accuracy there first, as strong native language development was found to be the key to second language acquisition. Then by separating the two languages it was encouraged among the students to use the languages separately and also promotes the differentiation between the two languages. More so then reading these articles, my teaching experience has helped me form my personal opinion concerning this topic as well as my own interpretation of the TEFL Code of Ethics. While I think that it is important as a teacher to always act justly and fairly, what stuck out as most important to me while reading the Code of Ethics were the parts that mention acting with evolving concepts of the needs and developing their talents suitably. Taking this into account I find that it is important in the beginning levels of learning a second language to be allowed to use one?s native language and for peers to assist each other while doing so. However, once the student has reached a higher proficiency level they should comprehend enough of the language to have instructions, new words and phrases, etc. explained using the target language. This also brings the student?s and teacher?s motivation into the picture which is one of the most important components in learning a second language.

Author: Cara Boccieri

Date of post: 2007-04-18